In February, Mike Bohlke announced that after 27 years in county government, he was starting his own lobbying firm. There was nothing unusual about it, except for one thing: he didn't quit his day job.
Bohlke makes $85,000 as the part-time transportation deputy to MTA Board Member Pam O'Connor. He has an office at the MTA, and has access to closed sessions.
At the same time, he is offering private clients the benefit of his expertise on transportation.
In an e-mail announcing his new lobbying firm, Bohlke noted his years of service to former Supervisor Yvonne Burke and touted his MTA experience.
“I look forward to assisting clients by bringing the experience, relationships, knowledge and insight I have gained over these years to clients as they seek to navigate their way through the public sector,” Bohlke wrote.
Bohlke is prohibited from lobbying at MTA because he still works there. He is registered to lobby at L.A. County.
But his e-mail touted a close friendship with lobbyist Arnie Berghoff, who was just hired by Beverly Hills to fight the MTA over the alignment of the Westside subway extension.
“My firm is located in the downtown office suite of the prominent and
respected public and governmental affairs firms of Arnie Berghoff &
Associates and Englander, Knabe and Allen,” Bohlke wrote. “I look forward to working
closely with these two firms as I grow my business in the coming
In the same e-mail, Berghoff said Bohlke was coming aboard as an “associate firm.”
am very happy that Mike has chosen to office with us and is now an
associate firm of Arnie Berghoff and Associates,” he wrote.
In an interview, Bohlke said he moved out of Berghoff's office in April,
because there wasn't enough work to justify the overhead. After initial
inquiries for this story, he had Berghoff remove his name from
the list of “associate firms” on Berghoff's website.
“I was never an associate,” Bohlke said. “I rented space from them.”
Berghoff said the situation does not pose a conflict of interest.
“There's no conflict. There's no appearance of conflict. There's no hint of conflict,” Berghoff said. “In the case of Beverly Hills, Mike Bohlke has never worked on it, and never would work on it.”
Beverly Hills is opposed to a subway stop at Constellation Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars, in part because it would require tunneling underneath Beverly Hills High School. The city announced last week that it had hired Berghoff to promote its case at the MTA.
Bohlke said the only conversation he had with Berghoff about the job was to advise Berghoff to register as a lobbyist with the MTA.
Karen Gorman, MTA's ethics officer, said she would advise Bohlke not to consult with Berghoff on MTA matters, and to recuse himself from issues involving his own clients.
“Mike's a pretty straight-up guy,” Gorman said. “He's pretty good about knowing the rules and having good sense.”